In my professional life, I spend most of my time with executives and business leaders discussing workforce issues. Most of the concerns that are raised are with the younger generation who is entering the workforce. They are most often described as:
- Lacking interpersonal skills
Company turnover rates are too high as they tend to move from job to job. Communication styles have changed as our technologies have changed, so texting, blogging, posting, has often replaced looking someone in the eye and having a verbal conversation. Many of today’s younger workers aren’t interested or aren’t planning on taking jobs that involve manual labor because technology is such a big part of their lives, and let’s face it, they do a better job of marketing opportunities to young adults than construction, oil & gas, or skilled trades do.
But in my personal life, I spend most of my time around students. My daughter is wrapping up her sophomore year of high school. She’s very involved in basketball with her school and in an AAu program. I help develop players for the basketball program at her school, so I am around students almost every night and weekend. There will always be those who are the poster children for the descriptions above, but not all of them. Not even most of them.
I’d like to share a few students with you that I’ve spent time with this year who are seniors – about to graduate and head off to college to begin their serious pursuit of a career. These students have genuinely impacted me and made me feel good about their potential to succeed and make others around them better.
Samantha – I’ve known Sam for a couple of years now. My first impression of her was that she was tough and not very personable or friendly. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I see her quite differently. She played basketball and was apart of my AAU program last year. She was a tireless worker on the court and a leader among the other girls. She was entering her senior year and it looked very bright for her. But just a few games into the season, injuries knocked her out for the rest of the year, and for the rest of her sports career. Obviously she was disappointed and saddened, but she stayed with her team and became their biggest cheerleader. She would sit on the bench and help younger players to understand what was happening on the court. Very positive on the court, but weeping off the court as the season didn’t work out the way she envisioned. Sam is smart, funny, driven, supportive, and the ultimate team player. She’s a leader. Sam wants to be a teacher and I believe she will be an amazing one!
Martin – Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with Martin and get to know him. Positive. Energetic. Strong interpersonal skills. Funny. Professional. His ambitions are to study some sort of neuroscience as it relates to sports injuries, or possibly physical therapy. I have extremely high expectations for him in his career. He is infectious with his enthusiasm for life and relationships. I see him being a leader throughout his career and his life. It would be very advantageous for a company to snatch him up now for an internship and begin to cultivate a relationship with him.
Patrick – I was able to meet and work with Patrick as he was preparing to go compete in a state competition for his school. He would be competing in the area of sales presentations. He had a product that he needed to present, be able to speak about the capabilities and nuances of the product, and answer questions regarding it. He did an excellent job! I have been around lots and lots of sales people over the years and Patrick has a VERY bright future ahead of him. He’s a gentle giant – friendly, engaging, humble, gracious, very strong communication skills, and the ability to present technical information in an easy to understand manner. I know lots of CEO’s in the Austin area who ought to give this guy an internship immediately! When he finishes that business and marketing degree, he will be unstoppable.
Gaebri – What an accomplished young lady! She is the captain of the dance team for the school. I spent each night last week around Gaebri as it was their end of the year Spring Show. 3 hours of non-stop music and dancing from the various dance groups in the school and area. Not only did Gaebri dance in the show, but she danced at least 15 dances and she choreographed the vast majority of the show. She has incredible talent, but that wasn’t the main thing that grabbed my attention. She was so at ease in the middle of all of that chaos around her. I’ve never seen anything like that! She is driven. She’s competitive. She has great attention to detail. She’s a multi-tasker galore! But she is well grounded, humble, kind, approachable, and a joy to be around. With the work ethic that she has, there’s no doubt that she is going to be successful at whatever she wants to pursue. There’s no doubt in my mind.
These four young people are incredible in their own unique ways! If we were to take the descriptions that business leaders have for this generation and compare them to these four people – they totally destroy those preconceived notions. There are many others that I could have mentioned as well. Look, I evaluate talent for various companies in multiple industries. I’m paid to be skeptical and only promote those who really are the best of the best. While none of these four students could come in today and be top producers in most organizations, I believe all of them could be quickly with training, mentoring, internships, and opportunities.
I feel good about the future workforce. Not everyone will be like the four that I’ve introduced to you today, but many of them are hard working, dedicated, loyal, personable, do the right thing kind of people. Good luck Class of 2014! I see great things ahead for you!